Posted by: Jill | October 4, 2011

Last Days in Brazil

“Well, there are more samples than food in the refrigerator,” Liz observed one day during our extremely civilized afternoon break for coffee and cake. “It must be time to head home.”

Afternoon tea is not a common occurrence on research expeditions, which are more often characterized by minimal sleep, few showers, and late nights fueled by a delicate balance of coffee and booze. But here, our cook is a magician with made-from-scratch cake which goes so well with a hot cup of tea. Who are we to say no?

In the final days of the expedition, everyone is carefully planning how to spend our diving time over the next two days. Because of the nitrogen that scuba divers absorb from breathing compressed air, we have to carefully limit the amount of time we spend underwater. If we wake up early we can do one dive before breakfast, then a second long shallow dive in the morning, and two shorter dives in the afternoon. Or maybe we want to conserve our diving time and do a nighttime dive? Fortunately, the sun sets at 6 pm here so close to the equator, so “night dives” can occur early in the evening and we can still get a good night of sleep … and wake up to dive early the following morning.

Gustavo has been faithfully filtering water for the entire trip. It is quick and simple to collect the water from specific spots on the reef, but the filtering is a slow, tedious, and very important process that can take 3-4 hours per individual sample. Yesterday he declared he was finally finished with all of the samples and we joined him in a celebration. But today he decided he needed just a bit more data, and so he was back at the filtration machine for several more hours. Earlier this evening he declared that he really is finished, and this time he means it. No complaints from me if he wants to celebrate a second time, and I take this as another sign that the end of the trip is near.

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